AT&T offers one of the best values in internet service—fast fiber internet speeds at reasonable prices, plus some of the best support in the business and rock-solid reliability. With no contracts, no data caps, and no monthly equipment fee, AT&T is one of the best home internet providers we tested.
Google Fiber offers affordable gig speeds with no contracts, data caps, fees, or fuss. Unfortunately, it’s still hamstrung by extremely limited availability.
Spectrum offers speedy, reasonably priced cable internet service, and a strong budget plan. We wish there were fewer fees attached, though.
The AT&T fiber plans represent an excellent value proposition. The speeds are competitive, and the prices at any given tier are lower than nearly every other provider. One exception, Xfinity, offers slightly cheaper gig plans in some markets. Another, Google Fiber, offers $10 less on gigabit speeds. However, AT&T is more likely to be available in areas that have cable internet from Spectrum and Cox, and we think AT&T fiber is usually the better deal.
For the money with AT&T, you get outstanding download speeds and excellent upload speeds. And with unlimited data on fiber internet plans, you can actually use your gigabit connection without worry.
Some legacy customers may have DSL internet from AT&T. The most affordable AT&T plan is more than $50 per month, but this can either be basic DSL (speeds up to 75 Mbps) or the excellent, fiber-based Internet 300. If you can get only AT&T fixed wireless, you’ll pay higher prices, face data caps, and suffer through 1 Mbps upload speeds. Other providers just offer much better deals on plans in these tiers.
Google Fiber internet is an excellent value for the money. There are only two plans: 1,000 Mbps (1 gig) for $70 per month and 2,000 Mbps (2 gigs) for $100 per month. The 1 gig plan is among the most affordable we’ve seen at that speed, costing a little more than half the national benchmark fro similar plans (1). The 2 gig option is also drastically cheaper than many other providers’ similar offerings (if they even have a 2 gig plan). There’s no budget option for those who don’t need speeds this fast, but for what Google does offer, the value is hard to beat.
Spectrum service offers a solid value—particularly at the lowest tier. There are only three plans to choose from, which could either be a plus or minus depending on your perspective. In this case, we feel it’s a good thing: the plans are straightforward and easy to understand.
The lowest-tier plan offers speeds up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) at a decent price, according to government benchmarks (1). That's just $0.17 per megabit per second, with speeds that blow any DSL plan out of the water. The other two internet plans are less exciting, but still reasonably priced for the first year. After 12 months, your price could be up by $20 or more.
AT&T claims 99% reliability (1) for its fiber internet service, and that’s pretty accurate in our experience. In fact, over several years of constant daily use in a packed house (two people working from home, two kids doing schoolwork, lots of streaming video and calls), we haven’t had a single major disruption. This is a marked contrast to our previous provider.
Additionally, speeds are consistent, with little variation based on the time of day, activity, or even the particular speed test used. Its median download speeds are slightly slower than its cable and fiber internet competitors, but only by a matter of milliseconds (2). This all adds up to a great experience where the service “just works,” and nobody ever really needs to wonder if they’ll be able to do what they need to do.
It's also worth mentioning that because AT&T fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables, upload speeds are equal to download speeds. That means you can upload huge files in seconds, video chat, live stream game play, and more without a hiccup.
Google Fiber is one of the fastest internet providers and offers excellent performance. The speeds are more than enough for even the heaviest users, and there’s enough bandwidth to power a whole household of HD streams. Since this is fiber, upload speeds are also excellent—1,000 Mbps on both plans. Unlimited data is the cherry on top of this delicious internet sundae. Our only knock is that some providers have started offering even faster speeds (though the majority of households won’t need more than what Google offers).
Spectrum offers speedy performance overall, with packages up to 1,000 Mbps available (wireless speeds may vary). The lower tiers are more exciting—almost every provider has a gig plan these days, but Spectrum’s lowest plan has speeds up to 300 Mbps, which is still excellent for all but the heaviest users. Additionally, there are no data caps on any of the plans, so you can use as much bandwidth as you like.
Speed is only half the equation, though—even the fastest connection is useless if it doesn’t work when you need it. Luckily, Spectrum is on par with its closest cable competitors here. It offers faster-than-advertised speeds most of the time, according to the US Federal Communications Commission (2), and earned the top spot for median speeds from Speedtest.net (3). Spectrum’s latency scores were a little higher than competitors Xfinity and Cox, but at just 25 ms, you’re still within the playability range for most online games.
AT&T fiber internet installation is about as simple as it gets. You have two options: a $99 professional installation by an AT&T technician or a DIY self-install kit.
If you can get only DSL with AT&T, the equipment is still free but you'll be charged a $49 activation fee. If you don't want to self-install, you can have a pro come out for an additional $99.
The self-install is very easy and comes with clear instructions, so we’d recommend that for pretty much everyone. Activation and configuration of your Wi-Fi network are handled through the simple AT&T Smart Home Manager app, so you don’t even need to log into the router settings page like with some other providers.
It is worth noting that both of these charges are a bit higher than what the competition charges. CenturyLink doesn’t charge for self-installation, for example, while Xfinity charges only $89.99 for a professional install.
That said, if you do need a professional to come out, you can count on fast and friendly service. We’ve personally had techs out on a couple of occasions and were happy with the experience.
Learn more about whether you need a professional installation.
Finally, the AT&T wireless gateway is surprisingly nice. Called AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, it’s super simple to set up, provides solid range, and looks decent on a desk. Compared to the routers and gateways provided by some other providers, this one’s a breath of fresh air.
Equipment is another area where Google Fiber really shines. Installation of the fiber jack is free, and there are no monthly fees for the network box, which functions as both a modem and router. This means that, outside of any state-imposed access fees, the advertised prices are what you’ll actually pay for broadband internet service. Many other providers end up costing $10–$15 more per month due to equipment rental fees, so this is a refreshing change of pace.
Additionally, Google doesn’t charge any sort of activation fee. This is another area where other internet providers sometimes get you—they advertise free installation, but charge a significant “activation fee” that negates the deal.
On paper, Google Fiber and its equipment are fantastic. We had to bump this score down, however, because of the slow pace of installation. Some customers complain of having to wait for months or even years to have fiber installed at their homes, even after the fiber-optic cables have been laid in their neighborhoods.
Spectrum’s equipment setup is a bit different than most—at least when it comes to fees. There is no charge for the modem, but there is a $5 monthly fee for the wireless router (waived on the gig plan). What this means is that Spectrum gives you a separate modem and router, instead of a combined gateway. It also means you can opt to bring your own wireless router if you prefer. Customers can also add Wi-Fi extenders, called Pods, for $3 each per month. If you use the Spectrum router, you can use the company's highly rated smartphone app to manage settings and parental controls.
Installation is straightforward and affordable. If you need a pro to come out, you can opt for a professional installation for $59.99. If you can handle the installation yourself, the self-install kit is about $25. We’d prefer free self-installation, but it isn’t the highest self-install fee we’ve seen, so we’ll take what we can get.
Internet providers have traditionally had a terrible reputation for customer service, but AT&T scores above average with national rating organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). These ratings have improved over the last few years, which is encouraging.
AT&T offers several options for getting help:
The support site also has lots of information available. It’s easy to use, and if you do need more help, the options involving service reps usually get a quick, friendly response. While it’s not perfect 100% of the time, AT&T customer support tends to be better than average.
AT&T makes it easy to stay connected away from home, too. Subscribers get access to a nationwide network of free Wi-Fi hotspots. Since AT&T offers mobile phone service in addition to internet, you'll be able to log on in from almost anywhere.
Given the excellent speeds, (relatively) affordable pricing, and lack of fees, it’s safe to say that living with Google Fiber makes for a fantastic experience. For the most part, you can just do what you need to do online and forget that you even have an internet service provider, which is great. When Google anticipates a change to your account or service, it generally lets you know well in advance.
If you do end up needing support, you’re dealing with Google. In general, this means really good online help and so-so phone support. That said, we’ve seen comparatively few customer service complaints about Google Fiber, and our own experience with Google Fiber has been that we rarely need customer support anyway. The company claims (2) it topped results in over 20 categories in an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, but the actual results of that survey don’t appear to be public, so all we have are anecdotes.
Something else that we love about Google Fiber is how straightforward the billing is. The monthly statements are very clear about how much you owe and when you’ll be charged compared to the sometimes confusing internet bills from other providers, so there’s no ambiguity about charges. You can also access your account and billing info using your Gmail login, so you don’t have to worry about yet another username and password.
We’ll just come right out and say it: Spectrum has a lot of fees. While you may never see most of them, it’s worth noting that they’re there. Here’s a sample:
These aren’t going to be on every bill, and you may never see most of them. However, when you do, it makes for a poor experience.
When you add second-year price hikes in the range of $20+, things aren't looking good for Spectrum customers. However, Spectrum customers seem to be about as satisfied with customer service as customers with competitors Cox and CenturyLink, and it's only slightly worse than average. (4)
If Spectrum is the only cable provider in your area and your home isn't wired for fiber internet, we recommend the service. Just set a calendar reminder to contact customer service in a year and see if you can negotiate the price down!